Saturday, August 29, 2015

Day 149- There Is Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Aug 28, 2015
Speck Pond Shelter(1917.4) to Fyre Notch Lean-to(1927.8) 10.4 Miles

Today marks the last section of my Guthook trail guide app. I have used Guthook for all of my elevation profile pictures. It is a great app if you are thinking about thru-hiking the AT or the PCT. 

Last night was cold! I felt like I was back in the Smokies, except I stayed warm last night thanks to my underquilt. This morning was a different story though. There is nothing worse than having to put on cold, wet clothes in the morning. It was about 50 degrees when I got up at 6:00. I'm not sure how cold it was with the windchill though, probably in the low 40's. I ate breakfast and made coffee, but it took me awhile before I forced myself to put on my wet clothes. I didn't actually leave camp until 7:30. I was dreading today. I was cold, wet, tired, and utterly demoralized. The terrain over the last three days has been miserable. It was much harder than anything I have done so far. After only a few minutes into this mornings hike I was honestly ready to quit. I considered slack packing, yellow blazing, or just quitting all together. We have all been pretty miserable the last three days. I was tired of feeling like I could die or be seriously injured with every step I took. This morning was no different. After leaving the shelter I only had to climb 600' over 1.1 miles. Sounds easy, right? Wrong!!! I had to climb up a crumbling trail, through the mud, and up wet rock slabs. The only  way to describe this challenge is for you to imagine a 15 foot stainless steel slide. Now picture that slide at a 60 degree angle, perched on the side of a dark, misty mountain. Before you try to climb up the slide, pour bacon grease mixed with mud down it. Now go ahead and climb up it. At the top will be a large muddy puddle with tree roots mixed in. Once you have your footing beneath you, look up, there is another slide to climb up. That is what I have been dealing with for the last twenty seven miles. Think that's bad? Try going down that. Today was even more fun because as I neared the top of the climb, I was above treeline. I had to contend with that madness, with 30-40 mph winds tossed into the mix. By the time I reached the top, I was at my wits end. I could not take another day of that type of terrain. My plan was to hike the 2.5 miles, all downhill, to Grafton Notch. From there I was going to hitch to the nearest town, get a nice hotel room, take a hot shower, and eat a lot of food. After that I would decide on how I would proceed. 
A break in the mist

As I turned the corner from the summit of Old Speck mountain, the craziest thing happened, I began to hike on actual trail. It was lovely! I kept expecting for it to go away and turn into something from ,Dante's Inferno, again. The farther I hiked, the nicer the trail became. I almost cried, I was so relieved. 
The sun even came out to play

I caught up to Airlock right around this time. We both agreed that our change in fortune came not a minute too soon. 
I had just asked her how she felt about the change of trail conditions
Actual, bygod trail

I had heard that the descent into Grafton Notch was really difficult. That couldn't have been further from the truth. It was a very enjoyable hike. To make things even better, the parking lot there even had a trash can and a privy. There was a trail maintainer that gave us clean filtered, non yellow water. I yogied(got food from a tourist without actually asking them for food. Like yogi bear) some almonds off of a day hiker. The sun was shining so bright that I was able to dryout all of my wet gear in a matter of minutes. It was amazing how quickly my entire world was changed. 
Nice trail 
Evil trail

The day only got better from here on out. We climbed up Baldpate Mountain, and we were rewarded with amazing views for our effort. The climb was long, with a lot of elevation gain, but since it was over nice trail I couldn't have cared less. It felt great to stretch my legs out again. I actually hiked 2.6 mph for the first time in forever. My ankle still hurts, but even that seemed manageable. 
View from Baldpate West Peak
Looking at Baldpate East Peak

The hike up to the east peak was a blast. We went up the rock faces seen in the picture above. They were more like ledges that were fun to hike on. 
Where's Waldo(or Airlock) 
She is the tiny blue and orange dot in the center of the picture on the lowest rock face

Fun ledges
Mt. Washington and Jefferson barely visable in the distance 
View back to Baldpate West Peak

The trail for the next mile returned to nasty, sketchy, unpleasant trail. We were a little frustrated by it, but somehow it didn't seem as horrible. I guess because we knew it wouldn't last. Hopefully from here on out, it will be hard climbs up tall mountains, but with nice trail conditions. I've heard that the nasty trail doesn't completely go away for the next 28 miles, but it is just in small sections. I was definitely taken to my breaking point the last few days. I honestly don't think I could have taken another full day of that crappy terrain. The AMC(known to thru-hikers as the Appalachian Money Club) should be ashamed of themselves. They charge us $8 to camp at shelters, they treated us poorly throughout The Whites, and they fail at even coming close to maintaining a safe, hikable trail. I'm not asking for easy, if it was easy everyone would do it. I'm just asking for a safe hiking trail. Ok, rant over with.... for now. 

Tomorrow is a new day and I'm hopeful for what lies ahead. 256.4 miles left until I reach the base of Mt. Katahdin!!!! 

"Today, you've got a decision to make. You're gonna get better or you're gonna get worse, but you're not gonna stay the same. Which will it be?" -Joe Paterno


  1. I am happy for you that you did find the light at the end of the tunnel. I would not have expected you to ever feel ready to quit (one way or another), which goes to show how hard the last days must have been, especially with a bad ankle. I love the photo of Airlock's response to your question and I will keep my fingers crossed for easier days and good camping conditions at night for the next period. Keep hiking (and smiling). Groetjes, Anja

  2. Rant well done! Thank goodness for your being with Airlock and the others for moral support through some really awful conditions. Good news about the trash can and privy; those "creature comforts" help a lot. Love learning new Trail terms like "yogied." Of course, I love the quote for the day. On to better trail conditions ahead.

  3. I had tears in my eyes reading your descriptions of trail conditions(rock climbing) and, very happy you had a reprieve. I will be very happy when you can just hike and know you are safe!! I also, liked Airlocks happy expression. Nice Mountain shots, again. I hope a better days are ahead. LY

  4. I've wondered many times why the trail has evolved over the years to become more dangerous. I am all for the hardest, steepest HIKING challenges but not stupid unsafe rock climbs. I wonder what sadistic-people-hating-jerk decided that this was the best way to weed out hikers or preserve the trail?
    Total hats off to anyone who can and would complete the dangerous trail...but for me, my AT is going to be a 2200 mile hike...I'll blue blaze (but not yellow blaze)...and accept &know I am not anywhere close to self discipline of Yoda or deserve the respect all the Purists.

  5. or deserve the respect all the Purists. ...crap----> or deserve the respect that all Purists have earned.

  6. Whatever will we do when we don't have your blog to read each day? Someone else wrote about the likeness to a book in its final chapters. Such an amazing journey and you take us along so well, Katie! Thank you once again! And thanks for doing all the hard work for us. I admire and envy what you do, see, and experience. Great rewards for you!
    Think of you often. Take care of your ankle. Hi to Airlock and the others. Godspeed. Be safe. Happy Trails!!! Love ya, BFG

  7. These difficult conditions only serve the purpose of increasing the tenacity that you already possess. As you know, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. But a hard way to learn a lesson that we never know if we give up that things may have improved just around the bend (or over the next hill, as the case may be) . I truly hope the worst is over for you and happy that things got better in time for you and your group. Continue to care for your ankle and prayers for safer trails for you.

  8. Whew ! I'm about ready for meds after these last 2 blogs!
    Is there a support group for mothers of AT hikers?
    Keep up with that positive energy----and spread it around like trail magic.:)
    Stay safe.
    Kathy in NH

  9. Such great comments - BFG is so correct...for you I'm glad we're nearing the last chapter, but we sure are going to miss your adventures. Though like your mom said, today's was a tough one to read early on - my heart was aching for you! Cold wet clothes AND such dangerous conditions UGH!!! May the Force be with you and pray your days of such misery are well behind you!